Author: Andy Weir
Read: October 10th
Release Date: 2011
Genre: science fiction
In short: hilariously written and a very fun read, but its lightness prevents it from exploring some darker themes that would’ve made The Martian a five-star read.
Goodreads: Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.
After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate the planet while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded on Mars’ surface, completely alone, with no way to signal Earth that he’s alive — and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone years before a rescue could arrive.
Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark’s not ready to quit. Armed with nothing but his ingenuity and his engineering skills — and a gallows sense of humor that proves to be his greatest source of strength – he embarks on a dogged quest to stay alive, using his botany expertise to grow food and even hatching a mad plan to contact NASA back on Earth.
As he overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next, Mark begins to let himself believe he might make it off the planet alive – but Mars has plenty of surprises in store for him yet.
I meant to post this review when the movie was still in theatres, but that didn’t quite work out. Hopefully there are some people who haven’t yet seen the movie and will read the book first.
Seriously. I love Matt Damon, but don’t watch the movie first. Don’t you dare.
≫ THE PLOT:
If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception.
Mark Watney expected a 30-day trip to Mars, but when a dust storm forces his fellow astronauts to leave him on the red planet, he’s staring a lonely eternity on Mars in the face. No one knows he’s still alive, until a lowly NASA worker spots some strange movement on Mars’s surface. Now Mark has to find a way to survive on a planet where nothing grows until NASA can come rescue him, and if that isn’t bad enough, Mars is perfectly happy to throw wrenches into every single one of his plans.
You can never go wrong with a good ol’ survival story! I loved Mark’s struggle, and I have to admit I never thought I’d be this excited about potatoes. Disclaimer, though, there is loads of science and math in this book. If you’re the kind of person that’s turned off by that, give The Martian a miss. You’ll save yourself a lot of frustration. I loved this because I’m such a space geek, and I was enthralled by every science-y thing this book did (which is apparently all possible by today’s scientific standards!). The book is told through the perspectives of multiple people, but the highlights are Mark’s log entries. Mark’s narration is probably the best part of this book: his sense of humour is fabulous, and makes The Martian just as entertaining as any comedy. But while the narration was the book’s best sell, it also brought it down for me in a different way, which I’ll touch upon later.
≫ THE SETTING:
Good old Mars! Being the space nerd that I am, I was reading up about our favourite little red planet one day. We talk a lot about the possibility of colonising Mars, but we laymen don’t realise how hard that is. Mars’s atmosphere is almost entirely made up of carbon dioxide, with traces of oxygen. Mars is geologically dead and has no magnetic field like the Earth, which means it gets hit by tons of solar radiation. Plus, its dust storms can block out the sun for days on end. This is the bleak environment Mark is trying to survive in, and I loved the way it was described.
Did I mention I am a space nerd?
≫ THE PROTAGONIST:
“I wonder what he’s thinking right now.”
LOG ENTRY: SOL 61
How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.
Mark Watney is a blessing to this world. He’s absolutely hilarious; his optimism was one of the deciding factors in his addition to the Mars mission. The best part is, his personality leaps off the page until you’re wishing you could be his best friend.
The bad thing about Mark being such a hilarious guy? I felt like the loneliness and the hopelessness of his situation didn’t come through as much as it should have. He’s marooned on another planet. But never once do you feel like he won’t make it. I suppose that makes The Martian a very hopeful story, which was great, but I found it hard to believe that there weren’t more moments of despair despite everything Mark goes through.
≫ THE OTHER CHARACTERS:
Andy Weir definitely knows how to write personalities, and while none of the other characters are really as vibrant as Mark, they make a great cast. What really stood out for me was the dynamic of the mission crew; I loved them all and I sort of wished they’d have another crazy space adventure together for me to read about. The folks at NASA were so great too! Shoutout to Venkat Kapoor. I am quietly looking into a career at NASA. Cape Canaveral, here I come.
≫ THE ENDING:
I have to say, when I got to the last page I said (aloud, mind you), “Really? You ended it there?” But the entire climax scene was fantastic and had me on the edge of my seat. (For those of you who have seen the movie and haven’t read the book, I really resent them for changing the climax. Slightly, but you know. They changed it.)
≫ TO SUMMARISE:
If you can handle science and you’re in the mood for an upbeat, optimistic story, go for it! I promise The Martian will completely suck you in.